Bush fires have destroyed a staggering 33 500 hectares of Namibia's vegetation countrywide, with the Otjozondjupa Region bearing the brunt of the seasonal inferno with 11 590 hectares of pasture burnt.
Senior Forester in the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Paulus Shikongo, revealed this yesterday to New Era. Shikongo confirmed that the alarming number of hectares burnt was recorded from January to August this year alone.
But he said the number is increasing, adding he is busy mapping the recent veld fires reported in the Hardap Region over the weekend, as well as the veld fires in Etosha that were reported by an Afrikaans daily this week.
The Kavango Region is in second place with 8 357 hectares destroyed by veld fires, followed by the Omaheke and Omusati regions with 5 617 and 2 651 hectares respectively.
"Nine thousand and forty-one (9 041) hectares were destroyed in the Otjozondjupa Region in August this year," said Shikongo, adding that the actual cause of veld fires is unknown.
However, he suspects that the culprits are hunters from the Tsumkwe area who deliberately start fires to trap wild animals. He explained that fresh grass that grows after a veld fire also attracts animals and this enables hunters to trap game.
Shikongo could not confirm the number of lives and livestock lost, but added that one person and a few animals died in the Hardap Region as a result of veld fires.
Officials from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism were not available to quantify and give an assessment of the damage caused by the fires on both fauna and flora.
Shikongo admitted that awareness campaigns do not seem to be working and was puzzled by why communal farmers who breed livestock cause veld fires that damage the grazing of their own livestock.
He said communal land in the Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions is prone to veld fires every year.
"It does not make sense to destroy grazing areas," said Shikongo, adding that more research is needed on the actual causes of veld fires.
"This year is worse than last year," he further revealed, adding that the windy month of August was the worst month since fires spread more easily.
"We will go ahead with the awareness campaign to warn farmers against causing harm to grazing areas, as well as set up measures to prevent fires from spreading," he said.
Shikongo said the ministry is aware that there is a shortage of fire-fighting equipment, including water trucks.
"I will recommend to distribute resources to hot spots like Otjozondjupa where veld fires occur every year," he said. He also expressed the hope that the ministry will make provision for fire-fighting equipment in its budget in the next financial year.